Small town girl. Joins Navy. Sees the world. Flies in planes. Hunts submarines. Gets out of military and has 3 kids. Rejoins Air National Guard as an "old lady" of 38.

A humorous compilation of stories and lessons learned. Usually the hard way.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

How to Prepare for Boot Camp

Photo @MilitaryMusclesUS 

Some of the most common questions I am routinely asked are, 'Would you recommend going into the military?', or 'Would you do it all over again?'  'Do sailors really drink that much?' And finally, 'How do I prepare for boot camp?' 

My answers are yes, yes and yes... and let me think about that.  Understandably, everyone’s experience is guaranteed to be different and every branch of the military is different.  However, I have compiled a list of tasks below that I believe would benefit anyone considering entering a branch of the service.  I can only wish I would have had this valuable information before I left for Navy Basic Training.  Perhaps it may have made the transition a little easier.

1.      Begin by making your bed (with hospital corners) and cleaning your room everyday to the point in which you would be willing to lick your floor.  Then lick the floor - to make sure you’re not fooling yourself.  When you are finished cleaning, have a good friend run in and destroy it in a very dramatic fashion.  Encourage them to throw your stuff everywhere and scream that it is not clean enough.  Flip the mattress over.  Pull the clothes from the drawers and sprinkle them across the floor - just to drive the point home.  Clean your room again. 


2.      On a regular basis, have someone yell two inches from your face with steamy breath.  Do not make eye contact, crack a smile, nor move to wipe any droplets of saliva from your face that may shoot from their mouth at this proximity.


3.      Go on a strict diet of overly processed and canned foods at every meal.  As you sit down to eat, set your watch for two minutes.  Shovel as much food into your face as you can for those two minutes straight.  When the time is up, dump the rest in the garbage.  Do not eat again until the next mealtime.


4.      March everywhere you go in big flat-soled boots - no matter what the weather.  Run a few miles every day in your boots.  Take this opportunity to really toughen up your arches and make them stand up on their own.


5.      Get in the push-up position, but do not lower your body into a push-up.  Encourage your dog to do the push-up with you.  Remain holding there until your dog actually does a push-up with you.  When he does, tell him it’s not good enough and you both must start over.


6.      Stop watching all TV, getting on the internet or any social media sites.  Cancel your magazine subscriptions.  Get comfortable with the idea of being isolated, completely cut off from pop culture and giving a care to what the Kardashian’s are doing.


7.      Wear the same outfit for nine weeks.  Wash in-between wears, of course.  You are not a damn caveman.


8.      Set the timer for two minutes for each shower.  Buy a shampoo/conditioner mix to use as your hair shampoo, conditioner, body soap, and face soap.  Squirt it into hands and lather entire body.  Rinse, and get out.


9.      Sleep on top of your covers, thinking of blankets as more of accessories than necessities.  This will save time in the mornings getting ready.  It is also encouraged to sleep fully dressed.


10.  Eat so much chocolate and smoke so many cigarettes that you throw up and never want to look at another one again - because you won’t.


11.  Buy a box of safety pins.  Sprinkle them all over a sandbox.  Retrieve every single one of them.  Repeat.  Get over your fear of work - especially tedious, monotonous, and boring work.


12.   Start journaling, praying, or learning to be okay alone - because you may be quite lonely at times and it helps to be comfortable in your own company. 


13.  Finally, look at a calendar.  See how small nine weeks really is in relation to the whole year.  Now think of how small nine weeks is in relation to your entire life thus far, and how microscopic it will be in your future.  Nine weeks is miniscule in the whole big picture of our life.  The days are long, but the weeks fly by. 


Remember that you got this and it will be worth it all in the end.  I promise.



Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Mistake.

Just in case anyone hadn't noticed, I took a "leave of absence" the past year.  During this time, I backpacked across Europe, staying with friendly strangers and eating local cuisine.  Only kidding. I spent any spare moment away I had from 'day job' and raising a crazy family to work on my memoir. 

I am so excited to announce that it will actually be complete with the publishing process at the beginning of the New Year- 2016!  That is when you will really get a taste of "What They Don't Teach You in Deer River."  Occasionally, I throw out a few stories from the book on my blog.  Below is one of my favorites- -now, that is.  At the time, not so much.  This was when I was 19, and brand-spanking new to the squadron.  Oh and just to warn you- there is naughty language involved.  But rare is a Navy story told without a few colorful words...

Not too long after I arrived in Iceland, we were scheduled for a long ten-hour burner (flight).  After my pre-flight was complete, I realized that I didn’t have much to snack on for the long flight that was ahead of me.  After checking with the crew how much time we had left, I gaily sauntered to the gee-dunk (food store) in the cold darkness of pre-dawn light. 

I have a fear of being stuck somewhere for any amount of time without food- so I always overcompensate how much food I have with me at all times.  I not sure why- perhaps I starved to death in a past life, or  perhaps it has something to do with going hungry on a mountain top for a week.  My helmet bag, purse, or anything that I carry always has a pocket or two containing food of some sort.  I hoard food like a squirrel hoards nuts. 

After gathering my treasured food items I had just bought from the gee-dunk, I began my trek across the icy ramp to where our fine mode of transportation lingered.  As I began to approach the plane, I was suddenly blinded by the severe glow that was cast from the taxi-lights above the forward landing gear.  Now, for any experienced operator, this should have been an obvious warning sign not to come any closer and to turn back.  Still, despite the hours upon hours of classroom training about aircraft safety, the thought had not yet crossed my mind.  I had only read the warnings in a book.  It had never been demonstrated to me.  Most likely, I was thinking about my food.  Instead, it was due to this illumination that I did not see the second key warning device of the top and bottom strobe lights flashing, signaling that the RADAR was in use. 

As I began to get closer to the aircraft, I realized the complacency of my actions.  Complacency/stupidity.  Potato/Pa-tatto.  I began to casually back up, hoping like mad that I hadn’t been spotted.  All at once the lights snapped off and the ramp was instantly black.  The door flung open hard and fast.  At the top of the ladder stood Stanley, the RADAR operator (Sensor operator-3), with one hand on his hip, and the other waving his finger toward him.  My head dropped, and I proceeded forward like a dog with his tail between his legs- knowing that this could not possibly be good. 

It was then that he yelled over the auxiliary power unit (APU) the words I feared more than anything.  “Chief wants to talk to you.”  My body was instantly weighted down with dread.  I knew it was all over.  My head was flooded with a million excuses that were up for grabs.  Sadly, I knew none of them would work against Chief.  He would not be bothered with such incompetence.  All I could do now was to beg for mercy.

I climbed the ladder, looking at Stanley with pleading eyes that screamed “Help me!”  He just looked away with the unspoken words that left me to understand that I was on my own.  As I reached the top of the ladder, I slowly turned my head to the right, towards the galley where I knew Chief was.

His face wore no emotion but I could feel in my stomach the penetration of the daggers his black eyes shot through me.  He simply pointed his fingers to the seat across the galley table from him.  Quietly, I obeyed and sat, trying to appear as innocent as possible.  Terror rose through me.  How is it possible that one man could make so many Airmen so terrified?  How is it that I would have rather shot my own foot off than face his wrath or worse yet, disappointment him? Maybe I could play dumb- pretend I just didn’t know.  I thought to myself.  No, that would probably be worse...

He looked up at me and then down at the table, squeezing his fists together, as if he was trying to control himself.  He looked back up and then came the words that I will never forget.  “DO YOU WANT TO FUCKING FRY YOUR OVARIES!?” 

Was this a trick question?  “Um, No?”  I stated, more asking if that was the right answer.  He smiled, which confused me even more.  We sat in silence.  I think he knew I hated silence. 

“You’re goddamn lucky Stanley shut it off before you got to close.”  Oh that was nice of him, I thought, slightly relieved.  I can still have children.

“What is the stand-off on the APS-137 RADAR?”

Okay, this was one of the easiest questions out there.  I learned this in VP-30.  Don’t blow this answer. Was that the big RADAR or the little one?  I took a stab at it.  “Ahh…250 feet?”  I replied.  At least that used to be the answer.  I think.  I wasn’t sure of anything in this moment.  Chief had the ability to do that to me.

He didn’t say anything for what seemed like forever.  I wasn’t sure if that was a good sign or a bad.  “Go finish your preflight,” he said, releasing me.  I turned to go, when he stopped me.  “Hey,” His voice echoed.  I turned back towards him.  “That’s one.”  He stated simply, and held up his index finger. 

Crap.  One strike already!  I just got on this crew, and I only had one more freebie to go.  Somehow I knew I was going to need it.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Halloween Up North

With Halloween right around the corner and my kids making plans for their costumes, I cannot help but think how differently they are growing up in Maryland compared to how I did back in Northern Minnesota - even with the little things, that one doesn’t think about everyday - like trick-or-treating.

For starters, growing up in the country, our closest neighbor was ¼ mile away, so it was necessary for my dad to drive us kids to each house.  This meant that our costumes had to fit neatly in the car and allow room for a seatbelt.  No big boxes or huge accessories for our costumes.  Goodbye to my dreams of being a robot or a Ghostbuster with an oversized proton pack.

Next, and most obvious, was the weather.  One could usually put money on it that no matter what, it would be frigid, freezing, or even blizzard-like conditions.  Thankfully, this was just a typical day in Minnesota, and we continued to trick-or-treat in those conditions like during “The Great Blizzard of 1991.”  However, this also meant that our costumes had to be loose enough that we could fit long underwear underneath of them.  Trust me, long underwear looks ridiculous under a Princess Jasmine costume - as Jasmine was the princess of the hour back then.  Instead, I went as a mime that year.  Accordingly, gloves and a hat were already a part of my costume accessories.

Another fact was that as kids, we didn’t know that people really checked their candy for razor blades and rat poison - as my parents knew everyone from which we begged for candy.  As kids, we grew to know them by what they handed out every year.  There was the lady that handed out the apples, as well as which house gave out Red Hots - a favorite of mine.  Then there was the house that gave out full-size candy bars; most of the time they only had a few trick-or-treaters, so it was quite affordable for them to do so.  And if my two sisters and I did not show up at their house, they would lose half of their visitors.  It was almost expected that we would be there.

Naturally since we knew everyone, (they were usually the older people from our church) trick-or-treating usually took even longer as most of the time we were required to pose for a picture in our Halloween costumes.  It was like we had 20 sets of grandparents.

At the time I remember watching kids on TV shows walking around neighborhoods and getting tons of candy.  I was jealous of their fancy Jasmine costumes made of thin shiny silk.  They just walked door to door in warm weather as they accumulated huge bags of candy.  As I grew older, I begged my dad to at least let me go into ‘town’ with my friends and go door-to-door.  He refused and insisted instead that I continue to ‘help’ with my little sisters until well beyond a trick-or-treating age.  I, of course, thought he was the cruelest parent ever.

Then one day I grew up and moved away.  As I look back at my Halloween memories, I realize they are much like Christmas or other holiday memories.  As a child, you just don’t see the whole picture; you are too focused on the instant gratification - and what is going on in your world.  Now I realize why my dad would drive us way out into the sticks to the ‘apple lady’s’ house.  I see why we had to stand and politely listen to those “old people’s stories” as they told about the costumes or traditions they followed when they were children.  Our visits may have been the only time these elderly people had many visitors at all.

Looking back, I realize how simple it really is to make someone’s day.  I suppose it was the secret that my dad had learned years ago.